Eye Spy Magazine | 10.02.2002 20:41
research facility used old and sick people as guinea pigs in germ warfare experiments. Porton Down is already at
the centre of another police investigation - Operation Antler - which concerns the duping of servicemen with the
deadly sarin and tabun nerve gas, mustard gas, CS and CR riot gas, LSD and another mind-binding drug believed
to be known as BZ. According to intelligence sources, more than 400 complaints and allegations have been
made from surviving servicemen and women covering a period of time from the 1950’s right up to 1989.
The new allegations may strengthen the belief that there has been a major cover-up by the British Government
and intelligence services.
Catholic priest Monsignor John Barry raised the matter almost 30 years ago with ministers. He said that it was
his belief that unlawful killings were taking place. Indeed, journalists from the Daily Express who have
single-handedly championed the cause of many of the victims, believe that they now have new evidence of the
experiments which allegedly took place between 1964 and 1966. According to their sources, scientists tested a
secret killer virus known more commonly today as a ‘biological warfare agent’ on dying leukemia patients in an
NHS hospital. Dolores McMahon, a microbiologist and a junior member of the team who was not involved in
decision making, denied there was anything unethical or irregular about the lengthy experiment with Kyasanur
Forest Monkey Disease on 33 patients at St. Thomas’ Hospital, London. She said that ethics had now changed
and added: “Of course, you have to remember in those days everyone with leukemia died anyway.”
The allegations are not that easily dismissed however, and tough detectives from Operation Antler are
determined to get to the truth. Faced with a huge catalogue of “illegal” experiments, they have now learned of the
new evidence. The information implies that the dying patients - many suffering from dementia - were without
relatives who could and almost certainly would have protected them from MOD scientists.
What is clear is that a major breakdown of communication happened, for the Monsignor’s claims were passed to
the then Liberal Party leader, Sir David Steel. The material referred to as “official documents” was originally
handed to the priest in 1970 by conscience-stricken members of his congregation in Scotland. He then chose to
reveal the information in a speech to the Edinburgh Business Club in January of that year. “I have seen the
evidence which I think is genuine,” he said. “There is a certain section of the Ministry of Defence which uses
elderly people as guinea pigs for experiments and quietly puts them to death afterwards. It is all carefully hidden
by the Official Secrets Act.”
Such an allegation if made today would have serious implications, but Monsignor simply gave the papers to Mr
Steel. He then apparently held a meeting with Dennis Healey, who was then Defence Minister for Harold Wilson’s
Labour Government. The file was given to Healey.
The short-lived scandal fizzled-out following a speech by Prime Minister Wilson. He said the matter had been
“fully investigated,” though he didn’t say who by. Furthermore, he never mentioned what if any conclusions had
been reached by “this authority.”
One campaigner who has tried for many years to uncover the truth regarding the service personnel experiments
is Liz Sigmund. When she learned of Barry’s claims, she believed there had indeed been a cover-up. Interestingly,
she gave journalists from the Express two letters from the Monsignor in which he writes: “I believed and still
believe the reports I received.” He wouldn’t divulge the source of his information however, because he thought
they would suffer “personal repercussions.”
Sigmund also has in her possession a letter from David Steel’s personal assistant who says she will look for a
copy of the documents he supposedly was handed in 1970.
David Steel, now Lord Steel, is Speaker of the newly founded Scottish Parliament. His assistant told journalists:
“He has no recollection whatsoever of this case and his records do not go back that far.” Lord Healey’s secretary
said something similar: “He doesn’t know about it. He can’t remember it.”
Ms Sigmund had several conversations with Monsignor Barry in the 1970’s. She recalls how he told her one
patient was suffering from dementia and had no relatives. She says: “There was a statement from Harold Wilson
in the House which virtually dismissed the allegations out of hand but we live in different times now.
“We now know that some 20,000 servicemen were duped into volunteering for research into the common cold and
then used in the most horrendous experiments with nerve gas and all sorts of things.
“We know that 40 people were injected with the biological warfare agent Kyasanur Forest Monkey (KFM) disease
in 1968. That was apparently done to see if it was of any therapeutic value to leukemia patients. KFM disease
has a 28 per cent fatality rate and causes horribly painful encephalitis in humans.
“Why was Porton Down involved in this search for a leukemia therapy in a NHS cancer ward? It is a coincidence
that just three years later KFM became a recognised biological warfare agent? Did Porton Down want to examine
the pathology of a biological warfare bug as it acts on humans?
An MOD spokeswoman said: “These are not things we could respond to quickly because it would take some time
to research records from that period.”
The police meanwhile will not be put off so easily. Officers working on Operation Antler are believed to be drawing
up plans that will undoubtedly cause ripples in the MOD. According to security sources, they are preparing to
arrest and question MOD scientists on charges of assault, wounding and the administration of poison. The move
could yet see many senior players in Government and Whitehall running for cover. And there may also be further
trouble ahead for Porton Down regarding the death of a soldier in 1954. If the police move to re-open the inquest
into the strange death of Private Ronald Maddison, 20, who died when Sarin nerve gas was ridiculously
administered to him at Porton Down. The police are examining evidence that the Coroner was lied to. If this is the
case, pressure on the research facility to open its files will become enormous.
The moves to reopen the Maddison file implies the Wiltshire-based police team believe the “misadventure
verdict” of the original inquest, held in secret in 1953 was wrong. Alan Care of the solicitors Russel Jones and
Walker acting on behalf of the Maddison family said: “The only reason I can see to reopen this inquest is for the
coroner and jury to consider an unlawful killing verdict. I cannot envisage anything more serious for the MOD who
ran Porton Down for many years.”
Maddison was part of a series of tests involving some 400 other men. Scientists tried to establish the amount of
nerve gas which when applied to clothes or the bare skin would cause incapacitation or death. The experiment
went badly wrong after the liquid was deliberately dripped on to Mr Maddison’s arm by a Porton Down scientist in
a gas chamber. He died 40 minutes later.
What followed is now regarded as a major cover-up by the MOD. Ten days after the soldier’s death, an inquest
was held behind closed doors “in the interests of national security.” Only MOD officials and Mr Maddison’s father
were allowed to attend. Incredibly, he too was sworn to secrecy and for years never told anyone what he had
heard. Porton Down have admitted the government “hushed up” details because it wanted to hide from the public
the extent of human experiments and work on nerve gas during the cold war.
Furthermore, there are fresh calls to find out just who the authority was that investigated the original 1970’s
claims. Harold Wilson confidently explained that all the allegations were nonsense and “had been investigated.”
Journalists and pressure groups are demanding to know: Did Porton Down actually investigate itself, or was it a
government agency? Some analysts believe Harold Wilson was given inaccurate information, whilst others
believe a cover-up of some magnitude has occurred.
Liz Sigmund said: “The question is who investigated them and what did they find? I think it is fair to say that
there is no faith in the Ministry of Defence investigating their own misdeeds if that is what actually happened.
“We don’t even know where these terrible allegations took place. I spoke to John Barry on the telephone in the
seventies and asked him where it had happened. I asked ‘Was it at Porton or at the base in Nancekuke in
Cornwall? He said that it wasn’t either of those places but another establishment somewhere in the South East.
He intimated that it had happened to people suffering from dementia who had no families. If that is true, then it is
too horrible to contemplate.”
Another twist to the Porton Down affair is contained in the recently released book Inside Outside by
controversial MP Tam Dalyell. The autobiography contains an entire chapter on the base. He was admonished by
the Speaker of the House of Commons for wearing a black tricorn hat, for events surrounding his campaign which
exposed the work of Porton Down. The MP who has long believed in a Freedom of Information Act said: “For years
I believed the MOD stitched me up over Porton Down in revenge for other issues I had embarrassed them about.
But now it’s dawning on me that they did it because they were desperate to keep me away from the subject of
Porton Down. They wanted to make the subject a no-go zone.”
Fearing the outcome of the Operation Antler, the MOD announced on 21 November that they will launch clinical
trials on the volunteers to see if their health was damaged. The Government is also on the backfoot. A minister
has finally acknowledged that victims of the secret experiments it carried out on over 20,000 human “guinea
pigs” will be offered “full examinations” to see if the experiments are responsible for an array of illnesses. The
MOD has also admitted that up to 4,000 servicemen were subjected to nerve agent experiments, almost a third
more than previously claimed. But an MOD official has reiterated that they have seen “no scientific or medical
evidence” linking the health of veterans to their participation in nuclear tests or the Gulf War.
Some analysts believe that it will take years to establish the truth, but that is all that matters to the relatives,
who simply want justice. Alan Care, lawyer for the Porton Down volunteers, said the MOD’s new assessment
programme was “insufficient.” He demanded a “full independent inquiry.”
o According to sources, the tests will by conducted by doctors at St. Thomas’ Hospital in London. The same
facility who checked Gulf War veterans. It is also our understanding that meetings between Porton Down
management, defence ministers and the security services have taken place on a regular basis to discuss the
implementation of a damage limitation programme.